Mobile data remains expensive in South Africa, especially if you incur out-of-bundle charges.
While ICASA’s new regulations require operators to send notifications warning of out-of-bundle data depletion, the charges for out-of-bundle spend remain high compared to in-bundle rates.
A Cell C customer recently discovered the sting of high out-of-bundle data rates when they were hit with a large bill they had unknowingly accumulated on a Cell C fixed LTE-A package.
The customer purchased a 24-month fixed LTE package through Cell C which included 50GB of data and was priced at R359 per month.
After the purchase, the customer placed the Cell C SIM into an LTE router and began to use the data.
The customer said that after they started using the LTE router, they were never informed they were going out of bundle.
Over the course of three days, the customer used a total of 14GB of out-of-bundle data without being alerted to the usage – or being automatically blocked from using out-of-bundle data.
This caused the customer to incur over R14,000 worth of out-of-bundle charges, in addition to their standard R359 monthly charge.
According to the customer, they only realised they were using out-of-bundle data when they looked at the router’s configuration page.
The out-of-bundle charges were reflected on the customer’s invoice at the end of the month, and as per Cell C’s terms and conditions for the LTE-A product, an out-of-bundle rate of R1.00 per MB was applied.
The customer told MyBroadband that the out-of-bundle notification SMSs were sent to the SIM in the LTE router and not their active mobile numbers, meaning they were unaware of the out-of-bundle depletion.
It should be noted that many ISPs who offer fixed LTE-A packages through Cell C or Rain, including Afrihost, hard-cap customers after they reach their monthly data allotment.
Cell C responds
Cell C confirmed the OOB billing case when contacted by MyBroadband, and stated that the extra charges were due to out-of-bundle data usage.
“There is no hard cap on data usage. However, the customer is always advised to activate a Voluntary Monthly Usage Limit (VML) to prevent incurring out-of-bundle charges,” it said.
Cell C said it began migrating customers from its old Monthly Usage Limit (MUL) system for out-of-bundle data to the new VML system in 2016.
“In December 2016, all Cell C postpaid customers were migrated from the old MUL to the new VML,” Cell C said.
“VML is the maximum amount that a customer requests to spend on their monthly invoice which would include out-of-bundle usage, fixed subscriptions, and any VAS (excluding daily bundles).”
According to Cell C, the MUL only applied to OOB charges and VML was implemented to reduce bill shock by providing customers with an overview of total cost.
In the case above, Cell C said the customer was able to rack up the out-of-bundle data charges because they had not activated a VML.
“No VML was activated by this customer despite being advised several times during the call that once they had received the package, they would need to call customer care and activate a limit to prevent out-of-bundle charges,” Cell C said.
The mobile operator added that it has offered the customer a “generous discount” on their invoice as a gesture of goodwill.